The word permaculture refers to “permanent agriculture”, and it is a set of design principles centred around simulating or directly using features observed in natural ecosystems. Our Certificate of Permaculture will give you insights into how to plan and develop a productive, self-sustaining and environmentally stable permaculture system.
When you study permaculture, you will explore the nature and scope of permaculture concepts, including energy recycling, biological pest control, plant identification, ecosystems and ecology. You will learn how to describe the characteristics of climate, soils, water and forest systems, and apply this knowledge to a permaculture design environment.
If you want to expand on your knowledge and enhance your career as a garden designer, landscape architect, ecologist or horticulturalist, consider our Certificate of Permaculture (Advanced). In this course, you will discover how to evaluate the appropriate design strategies for specific development sites, understand the natural patterns occurring in the local area, undertake planning work, and prepare efficient and value-added cost estimates.
You will also study how to develop strategies for the management of water and earthworks, design a permaculture system for dry, humid and temperate to cold climates in urban and rural areas and explore alternative sustainable systems.
Outcomes achieved when you study permaculture include:
- Learning about permaculture concepts including life ethics and guiding principles – relative location, multiple functions and elements, elevational planning, energy recycling etc.
- Exploring permaculture ideas and techniques from around the world
- Gaining an understanding of natural gardening, organic growing and no-dig gardening
- Studying crop rotation
- Gaining insights into the biological control of pest and disease
- Examining integrated pest management
- Understanding how living things vary from place to place
- Learning about plant names and an easier way to identify plants
- Exploring the pronunciation of plant names
- Gaining an understanding of why the environment is key to permaculture design
- Studying ecology and ecosystems
- Gaining insights into abiotic and biotic components
- Examining ecological concepts
- Understanding the Web of Life, Replicating Nature and Successions
- Learning about how to start a permaculture property including structure, cost, size and location
- Exploring permaculture design
- Gaining an understanding of soils in permaculture and the role of soil
- Studying soil components including silt, gravel sand and colloids
- Gaining insights into peds
- Examining how to name a soil and manage it including cycles
- Understanding fertiliser application
- Learning about nitrogen and the factors affecting nitrogen release from organic sources
- Exploring microorganism populations
- Gaining an understanding how pH, heat and chemical treatment, soil temperature, cultivation and cover crops and draining and erosion
- Studying how to measure pH, the organic and water content of soil and how to determine the solubility of soils
- Gaining insights into how to test the affect of lime on soil and measuring salinity
- Understanding how to take soil samples for lab tests
- Learning aboutColourimetry
- Exploring climate and water in permaculture
- Gaining an understanding of site types, degree days, infiltration, rainfall, temperature, frosts, evaporation and evaporation
Outcomes achieved when you study permaculture in our Advanced course include:
- Learning how to evaluate design strategies
- Exploring low input, regenerative and conservation farming
- Gaining an understanding of biodynamic and organic systems
- Studying polyculture, integrated management and permaculture planning
- Gaining insights into sectors, zones, spirals, circles, pathways, keyhole beds and small-scale sun traps and shading
- Understanding patterns, how to evaluate a site, weather patterns, soil pH, temperature and water etc.
- Learning about electromagnetic, herbicide and pesticide consideration
- Exploring land carrying capacity, assessing land capability and indications of sustainability
- Studying water supply, water saving measures, tanks and dam and pond building
- Gaining insights into construction, liners, collect rainwater, use farm waste water and recycle waste water
- Understanding well drilling, pumps and plumbing supplies, pumping subterranean ground water and pumping from natural supplies
- Learning about water use – power and diesel generators
- Exploring fish and water plant culture and seasonal changes in a pond
- Gaining an understanding of swales and key lines and key line design
- Studying earthworks including site clearing, levelling, drainage and surveying techniques
- Gaining insights into erosion, salinity, sodicity, soil compaction and soil acidification
- Understanding the build-up of dangerous chemicals and how to use lime, gypsum and acidic materials
- Learning about humid tropics – precipitation, wind, radiation and sources of humus
- Exploring mulches, soil life, barrier plants and animal barriers in the humid tropics
- Studying permaculture systems in the wet tropics including garden beds and what tropical fruits to grow
- Gaining insights into dry climates – water storage and conservation, drylands gardens and orchards, planting on hills and corridor planting
- Examining how to overcome dry soils
- Understanding vegetables, fruits, vines and drought tolerant plants
- Learning about temperature to cold climates
- Exploring the characteristics of a temperate biozone
- Studying cool temperature garden design and useful crops for this zone
- Gaining insights into crop protection and soils in cool temperate areas
- Understanding how to grow berries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, nuts and herbs
- Learning about planning – the process and alternative planning procedures
Some Common Practices in Permaculture
When you study permaculture, you will gain insights into the wide variety of practices adopted by those in the agricultural sector around the world. Here are some of the more commonly used.
Agroforestry uses the interactive benefits of combining forestry and agriculture — for example, combining shrubs and trees with livestock or crops — to create more productive, diverse, profitable and healthy land-use systems. This enhances the sustainability and functionality of the farming system (for example, trees product a wide range of useful and marketable products from fruits and nuts to wood products and medicines). The intentional combination has multiple benefits, including increased biodiversity, reduced erosion, improved soil structure and health, and enhanced yields from staple food crops.
A common practice in permaculture, this practice in involves using various species of worms to create a mixture of decomposing food or vegetable waste. The worms (usually white worms, red rigglers or earthworms) produce worm casings. These can be used to organically fertilise gardens, increase plant growth and decrease heavy metals in soil. They can also help to improve water retention and aerate the soil. The rearing of worms for this purpose is called vermiculture.
Another common practice of permaculture, rainwater harvesting is the accumulation and storage of rainwater for re-use before it runs off. Rainwater is collected from a roof-like surface and redirected to a cistern, aquifier, tank, deep pit (shaft, well or borehole) or a reservoir with percolation, so that it seeps down and restores the ground water. Rainwater harvesting differs from stormwater harvesting as the run-off is collected from roofs rather than drains, creeks, roads or any other land surfaces. Its uses include watering livestock, gardens, irrigation, domestic heating and domestic use (with the proper treatment).
Animals are a critical component of any sustainable ecosystem, and often incorporated into a permaculture site design. Research indicates that without animals’ contribution, ecological integrity is diminished or lost. Nutrients are cycled by animals and transformed from their less-digestible form (such as twigs or grass) into more nutrient-dense manure. Multiple animals can contribute including cows, geese, turkeys, rabbits, goats, pigs and chickens. Activities that contribute to the system include weed maintenance, spreading seeds, pest maintenance, clearing fallen fruit and foraging to cycle nutrients.
This is the practice of burying wood to increase soil water retention. The porous structure of wood acts as a sponge when it decomposes underground. During the rainy season, sufficient buried wood can absorb enough water to sustain crops throughout the dry season.
The Hügelkultur technique can be implemented through building mounds on the ground as well as in raised garden beds. In raised beds, the practice imitates natural nutrient cycling found in wood decomposition while also improving bed structure and drainage properties. This is done by placing wood material (for example, sticks and logs) in the bottom of the bed before piling compost and organic soil on top.
This involves using a range of materials and building systems that apply permaculture principals. The focus is on durability and the use of plentiful, minimally processed or renewable resources, as well as those that (while salvaged or recycled) maintain indoor air quality and produce healthy living environments.
Natural building attempts to lessen the environmental impacts of buildings without sacrificing health, comfort or aesthetics. It also employs abundantly available natural resources like rock, clay, straw, sand, wood and reeds and draws heavily on traditional architectural strategies found in various climates.
Most materials are sourced locally, regionally or even on-site.
Minimising the ecological footprint is common as is the on-site handling of on-site water capture, alternative sewerage treatment, water re-use and energy acquisition.
Mulch is essentially a protective cover placed over soil. Mulch material includes leaves, stones, wood chips, cardboard and gravel, although in permaculture, mulches of organic material are preferred because they perform more functions. These include reducing evaporation, absorbing rainfall, providing nutrients, suppressing weed growth, creating habitats for soil organisms, reducing erosion, protecting against frost and increasing soil organic matter.
Sheet mulching is a gardening technique that attempts to mimic the leaf cover on forest floors and therefore natural forest processes. When deployed correctly and in combination with other permaculture principles, it can generate productive, healthy and low maintenance ecosystems.
Some proponents of permaculture advocate heavily restricted pruning. This technique was adopted and developed by Austrian permaculture advocate Sepp Holzer. He grew fruiting trees far above their normal temperature, altitude and snow load ranges. He noted that the longer and more naturally formed branches bent over under the snow load until they touched the ground, thus forming a natural arch against snow loads that would normally break a pruned, shorter branch.
Permaculture derives its origins from agriculture, although the same principles can also be applied to mariculture. An example is marine permaculture where an artificial upwelling of deep, cold ocean water is induced. When attachment substrate is provided in association with such an upwelling, and kelp sporophytes are present, a kelp forest ecosystem can be established, and micro-algae proliferate as well. These marine forest habitats are beneficial for many fish species and the kelp is animal food, a renewable resource for food and various other commercial products.
Gain insights into the variety of disciplines that relate to permaculture and a greater awareness of concepts that can be applied to sustainable land management when you study permaculture courses like our Certificate of Permaculture and our Certificate of Permaculture (Advanced)